Today Governor Barbour presented his revised budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2011, the coming fiscal year. He is recommending that the Legislature reduce significantly the funding levels for K-12 education, asking that the House and Senate strip over $160-million from the level of funding that they adopted for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) just before adjourning for a 3-week break.
A few weeks ago, the Senate adopted the Bryan Amendment. This legislation brought the Senate level of funding for the MAEP in line with the House position and, like the House version, fully funded the National Board Certified Teacher Program. It also went a step further. The Bryan Amendment states that, if the federal government extends the reduced state match for Medicaid, as it is expected to do, and the state saves at least $150-million, $50-million of that will be added to the appropriation for the MAEP.
The Parents’ Campaign believes the House and Senate should adopt a level of funding for K-12 education that is at least equivalent to the funding called for in the Bryan Amendment. We support the Bryan Amendment even though the House and Senate subsequently agreed to base their FY11 budgets on a lowered revenue estimate.
Even the Bryan Amendment falls far short of what is adequate to properly educate our children. In fact, it underfunds the MAEP by over $150-million. It is, however, a realistic budget given the current economic situation. The level of funding recommended in Governor Barbour’s budget would underfund the MAEP by over $319-million.
We understand that times are hard. We also understand that failing to educate our children adequately will have dire consequences for our kids and our state that will outlast this recession by decades. We agree that all state agencies can and should find cost savings, and our schools have done just that. What we are beginning to see now in very real ways is that draconian cuts have draconian consequences.
Teacher, staff and administrator salaries are being reduced; hundreds of teachers’ jobs are being cut, and class sizes are rising accordingly – some even beyond what the law allows. Enrichment and tutorial programs are being cut and classroom resources are being reduced. Academic teams, athletics, and other extracurricular activities are being pared back, and students are losing valuable opportunities to compete with their peers and develop important leadership skills. Parents are rightfully worried that their children’s opportunities for success are being diminished. The strides that we have made over the last few years to improve Mississippi schools are vanishing before our eyes. We can’t let that happen. We need your help to keep us from moving further backward.
Before legislators head back to the Capitol next Tuesday, we need to make sure that they are prepared to protect our children’s education. Please ask your legislators to support the level of funding for MAEP that is called for in the Bryan Amendment.